In front of a packed house at Lehman University’s Apex Center, President Barack Obama announced the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance. Amid the huge disparity in opportunity for millions of boys and young men of color (in comparison with White males, as young girls of color face similar disparities), the My Brother’s Keeper initiative was created to assist leading businesses into taking steps to tailor their diversity and talent strategy of hiring male POC.
A brainchild of President Obama, it was activated in February 2014 following the death of Trayvon Martin, though the direct relation to these disparities remains unclear. “We wanted a message sent from the White House in a sustained way that [Trayvon’s] life mattered,” said President Obama. “Across the country and parts of New York, parts of New Jersey and in my hometown of Chicago, there are communities that don’t have enough jobs.”
By 2020, the majority of Americans under the age of 18 will be persons of color. The My Brother’s Keeper Alliance will help boys and young men of color by supporting program interventions and targeting six key life milestones that include entering school ready to learn (Early Childhood), Reading at Grade Level by Third Grade (Middle Childhood), graduating from high school ready for college and career (Adolescence), completing post-secondary education or training (Adulthood Transition), successfully entering the Workforce (Adulthood) and reducing violence and providing a second chance (Throughout Life).
Facing diminished educational outcomes, fewer opportunities to gain career skills and lower rates of employment, all of which can prevent young men of color. Projections show that 123 million high-skill and high-wage jobs will be available in 2020, but only 50 million workers will be qualified to fill them. As the nation grows more diverse, businesses must evolve to address the needs of changing demographics. Labor projections suggest that by 2018, U.S. employers will need 22 million new workers with a post-secondary education – and will have only 19 million available.
President Obama also participated in a roundtable discussion with young men from New York and across the country. When addressing the relationship between police and the inner city, he stated “If we ask the police to simply contain and control problems that we ourselves have been unwilling to invest and solve; that’s not fair to the communities, that’s not fair to the police.”
With commitments to date totaling over $80 million, MBK Alliance will start by developing a comprehensive guide to mobilize the private sector in addressing key obstacles facing young men of color. They’ll also disperse up to $7 million in grants to programs and organizations with proven, innovative intervention programs and create a $15-25 million grants competition to reward up to nine communities with $3 million to build local infrastructure and capacity. “We believe in the idea that no matter who you are, no matter what you look like, no matter where you came from, no matter what your circumstances are, if you work hard, if you take responsibility America is someplace where you can make something of your life,” said President Obama.
Brandon Robinson is a sports and entertainment writer and TV personality. Follow him on Twitter @SCOOPB and visit www.ScoopB.com.